Aurore!  The Mystery of the Martyred Child

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La Presse, April 24, 1920, p. 13



It was not possible to form an exclusively French-speaking jury for the trial of the cruel stepmother’s husband.- The first witness to be heard is Doctor Marois.


(From the correspondent of La PRESSE)
Quebec City, 24.- The trial of Télesphore Gagnon, who is jointly accused of the murder of his daughter, ten-year-old Aurore Gagnon, the little martyr from Ste. Philomène – a murder for which the stepmother, Marie-Anne Houde, has already been sentenced to hang – continued yesterday afternoon at the Quebec City Assizes, presided by the Honourable Justice Désy. As we reported in yesterday’s edition, the jury selection was most difficult and it was not possible to form an exclusively French-speaking jury.


Up until the last minute, it was hoped that the jury could be formed exclusively of French-speaking people, but because of an anomaly resulting from the procedure that must be followed in such cases, it was not possible to do so. The die is cast. All testimony heard in the course of this trial will have to be repeated in English, and two or three additional speeches will have to be delivered in English at the end of the trial. At issue was whether the juror John Reed, who has stated that he does not understand a single word of French, would be accepted as part of the jury that will judge Télesphore Gagnon. Neither the judge, nor the Crown Attorneys, nor the defence attorneys, were able to prevent Monsieur Reed from being accepted, and he had to be sworn in as a member of the jury. The juror John Reed was finally accepted and he must be allowed to participate. The trial will last twice as long as it would have, had the jury been composed exclusively of French-speaking jurors.


The jury is thus composed of the following persons: Herménégilde Dubuc, of St. Antoine de Tilly; Xavier Simard, of Ste. Anne de Beaupré; Philippe T. Blainey, of St. Marc des Carrières; François Beaumont, of Ste. Catherine de Portneuf; Charles Bégin, of St. David; Michel Martel, of St. Ambroise de Lorette; Adjutor Thibaudeau, of Ste. Christine de Portneuf; Edouard Chalifour, of Beauport; Joseph Leduc, of Donnacona; Adélard Blanchet, of St. Edouard de Lotbinière; Thomas Dowd, who understands French well; and John Reed, for whom it will be necessary to repeat all examinations, all testimony, all speeches, etc., since this citizen does not understand a single word of French.

Monsieur Fitzpatrick, one of the Crown Attorneys, explained the facts of the case first in French, and then in English. And so the trial began.

Monsieur Francoeur requested that the accused be allowed to sit down. Justice Désy denied this request for the moment. He will see later!

Continued on page 47


Continued from page 13


The first witness heard was the government’s medical examiner and a professor of forensic medicine and toxicology at Laval University. Doctor Marois reported the results of the autopsy that he had performed on the body of Aurore Gagnon. This report is exactly the same one that was submitted by the same witness in the Gagnon woman’s trial.

Doctor Marois had no new light to cast on the autopsy that he had performed. He repeated that Aurore Gagnon’s body was literally covered with wounds. In reply to Monsieur Francoeur, Doctor Marois admitted that he had not examined the spinal cord. He did not consider that necessary under the circumstances. He was convinced that, in this case, the sole cause of death was infection caused by the numerous wounds. He remains convinced that it was impossible that there were lesions on the spinal cord. All the victim’s organs were normal, except for the stomach, whose lining was slightly reddened. There was no fracture of the skull. Above the wound on her eye, all of the skin had become detached. There seemed to be liquid between the skin and the skull. The witness was shown several instruments - an axe handle, a whip - and he was asked to say if he believed that the wounds he observed on Aurore’s body could have been caused by these instruments. The witness replied that that was possible.

Doctor Marois repeated that the child had been treated at the Hôtel Dieu hospital from September 16 to October 17, 1919, for an ulcerated lesion on her foot, and that her injury was healed when she left. He was examined at length by Monsieur Francoeur and by the judge concerning the injury to her eye. He said that, according to the evidence, the treatment that had been given to the child was the treatment that was customary in such situations in rural areas. Doctor Marois stated that the slightest scratch could become infected and cause death. At 3:45, there was a ten minute recess.


Doctor Lafond, of St. Jacques de Parisville, who had attended the autopsy performed on Aurore Gagnon’s body, corroborated Doctor Marois’s testimony. Monsieur Fitzpatrick then examined him concerning the treatment he had given Aurore Gagnon last summer. He was the family’s doctor. He was the one who had treated Aurore Gagnon last August for a lesion on her foot. He had treated her until September 14, when he advised the child’s parents to send her to the hospital after he observed that the dressings he had prescribed were not being applied. He did not see the child again until February 12, the day that she died. He believed that the wounds he had observed must have been caused by blunt instruments. The appearance of the wounds seemed to indicate that little Aurore Gagnon had not received any treatment. In reply to Monsieur Francoeur, Doctor Lafond said that all he had done was feel the pulse of the little girl, who was unconscious. The pulse was imperceptible. There was nothing that could be done and the witness did not attempt any further measures. It was Marie-Anne Houde, the cruel stepmother and the wife of the accused, who had asked him to treat Aurore last September. He had visited six times and had observed that the dressings had not been applied as he had instructed. Last February 9, he had sent two ounces of iodine tincture to the Gagnons’ household, at the request of the accused’s wife. He could not recall whether he had sent any other medication to the Gagnons’ home between last August and the date of Aurore’s death. At 4:25, the Court adjourned until 10 o’clock this morning (Saturday). It is understood that the Court will sit all day today and that the defence will not begin to hear its witnesses before Monday.

Source: Correspondant La Presse, "Aux Assises de Québec. Le procès de Télesphore Gagnon sera plus long qu'il ne devrait à cause d'un juré, un seul, qui ne peut ni parler ni comprendre le français," La Presse (Montréal), April 24, 1920.

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